Monday 12 February 2018
I didn’t sleep well. Despite going to bed at 8pm. There was a lot of noise at midnight – people in the corridor. Then heavy rain from 2am.
I was up at 3.15am. And in an uber by 3.30pm.
I’m getting a train this morning. And the station is suppose to be near an hours drive away, in Kalka.
The roads were completely deserted. Barely saw a single person.
And it only took 40 minutes. So by 4.10am, we were at the train station.
My train is at 5.20am.
The station was deserted too. Except for many people sleeping on benches and across the floor, covered in blankets.
Not even the snack stalls were out yet. But one small shop was open.
So I found my platform. And sat near the snack man.
Then the announcements started. An hour delay. So not only was it 4.20am and I was an hour early. The train isn’t leaving until 6.20am. Great.
Around 5am, the snack men started to arrive. Setting out their kettles of steaming chai. It smelt so good. But all contain milk.
I’m not sure where all the other passengers are. But even at 5.20am, there were only 10 people waiting.
This train route is quite famous. There are often TV programmes in England about it.
From Kalka, trains run on a narrow gauge railway, up to shimla. Because it is narrower than a traditional train, they are known as Toy Trains.
The English started creating little bits of England in the hills of Shimla and from 1864 Shimla became the British Raj’s summer capital. The railway followed in 1903.
There are a few different trains that you can get up the winding railway.
I wanted to get the slow, local train, which stops everywhere, and has the usual sellers. (I do love train samosas). But I couldn’t buy a ticket for that one online.
So instead, I’m on the Shivalik Express train, which is supposed to be a deluxe train, which only has first class. Whilst I’m not sure I would associate those words with it, it is definitely a step up from a crowded wooden bench.
It also comes with a much higher price tag – about Rp500. £6.
Although 6.20am came and went. And barely any passengers were still here. Didn’t know what I was missing. But turns out, we were waiting for a train to arrive from Delhi – it was delayed, so now we were delayed. And the majority of the passengers for this train, came on that train.
By 7am, we finally pulled away. I’ve been sitting here in the cold for 3 hours.
We moved slowly. Making our way around the winding corners. Up the hills. Sometimes with steep drops on both sides.
There were only 18 seats in the carriage. But they made enough noise. Every time we went through a tunnel, there was screaming. I’m not sure that was entirely necessary.
It was dark for the beginning of the journey, but by 8am, there was daylight.
Winding around bends. Climbing up and up. 3 layers of railway visible in some places. Over cool bridges. And lots of tunnels. The longest is 1.4km.
We had a guard in the carriage. He kept opening the door for me, so I could take photos (and half hang out!). Was nice of him. He was telling me all about the railway. He goes up and back in a day. Long day.
It was raining the whole journey. And really cold.
Just after 9am we reached Barog station. Here we stop to pick up food. 2 slices of bread, a couple of spicy potato fritters and tomato sauce. Exciting…. but I was hungry.
By now the screaming through tunnels had lost its appeal. Thank goodness.
The views were nice. The rain stopped briefly, offering good views around each bend of the mountain.
By 12pm we were pulling into shimla. It was exactly how it looked on tv. The blanket-clad porters rushing to the train, to grab each person filing off.
It was cold. Nearly zero degrees.